Elena Bouton, violin

Elena Bouton, violin

“Our next door neighbor played violin and when I was about 3 years old, I just l latched onto it. I decided that’s what I wanted to play,” Elena says. So she did. Growing up in upstate New York, her Dad played guitar and her Mom piano, so they all played together sometimes. (Elena’s sister Emily Bouton, joined them on violin about four years later.)

Being so young, she used the Susuki method, complemented with playing fiddle music, with her Dad on guitar, and making Christmas music tapes for the family.

Elena played in her school orchestras through elementary, middle and high school, and went to music summer camps with tennis and fiddle tunes. She also played in the Empire State Youth Orchestra and toured in China and Korea with that orchestra.

Elena then took a gap year after high school, living in Germany with hosts who also happened to play violin. She played in a community orchestra and had a grand time trying to follow a conductor in German.

Off to McGill University in Montreal for university. Elena played in the McGill Community Orchestra, trekking 1½ hours on the metro each way for rehearsals, which, in a Montreal winter, really shows dedication! “You don’t actually have to do these things,” Elena says, “but playing violin is so ingrained in me that I can’t imagine not playing.” Once again, she had to contend with a musical system she wasn’t familiar with (the solfège naming system, which uses Do, Re, Mi rather than C, D, E).

“You just read the conductor’s body language and gauge how loudly he’s shouting to figure out what he wants,” Elena explains. Oh! In Elena’s final year there, Emily also joined that orchestra, the first time they actually played in an orchestra together.

Elena made her way to the Bay Area for a Master’s Degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley, and now works here as an architect.

“I always prefer playing in an orchestra,” she says. “The intensity of a full orchestra, the enveloping of its full sound, is really exciting.” But that doesn’t mean she’s given up fiddling. You might also find her at a café on Irish jam night!

~ Joyce Vollmer

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